As I gazed in the tropical trees looking for the white-breasted wood wren, hearing Henry Pollock take part in a call and response with this bird, all I could wonder was this the most unique thing I have ever done on a Tuesday morning.
After returning from BCI to Gamboa Monday, we travelled to the nearby forest to gain better insight with tropical bird research. Our guides were Henry Pollock, Elise Nishikawa, and the Dr. Touchton, who on the previous day gave use a primer for today. The trio of scientists explained the tactics they utilize for finding and studying these elusive beauties. As we walked down the path, Henry keyed us to each bird call echoing the forest. It was impressive to see another human determine bird species with just a couple of seconds of singing. There however was the dilemma of actually finding these winged creatures in the dense environment, which often flew off the second they were spotted.
We were fortunate however to be in close proximity will several birds thanks to Elise and Dr. Touchton who demonstrate bird netting, a methodology that involves safe nets, audio playback and whole lot of ants. Dr. Touchton explained that many of the birds will often follow the movements of army ants who through their sheer size and coordination, force many of these bird’s favorite meals into the open. The birds fly close to the ground, only to be captured in the net. Luckily, the scientists safely remove them and spend the next couple of minutes examining their physiology and health; procuring them in a manner that is safe for them and releasing these natural aviators when all is done.
Despite the procedures and dedication to safety, there will be some nasty incidents between man and bird. One of the birds Henry captured and held (whose dense, seed-eating beak reminds of a Darwinian finch) was doing all that it could to escape. As Henry tried to produce measurements, the bird took went with one of his finger, giving him a minor gash.
And as he prepared to release the dynamic fowl 10 minutes later, it went for another successful jab.
Even so, there was no true animosity between the two parties as it ultimately was a brief encounter that will produce long lasting knowledge that in time will benefit both parties.